Have you ever wondered what that little indentation above your lip is called? That space between your lip and your nose is called a philtrum. According to the Jewish Talmud, an angel is sent by God to each womb to teach the baby "the entire Torah." Sadly, just before the baby is born, the angel returns and touches the baby between the upper lip and the nose and all that was learned, is now mysteriously forgotten; the philtrum is the mark left by the angel "shushing" the baby to cause her to forget her holy knowledge.
I love this concept so much more than the tabula rasa, or blank slate, proposed by the ancient Greeks and still widely subscribed to today. I know so many people my age who are still struggling with figuring out who they are and what their true path in life is. As I embark on my own path of self-discovery, I’m comforted by this Jewish mythology in that it reminds me that what I’m “searching” for does not lie in a far away land, is not contained in some academic or theological tome, but rather lies inside me to be “rediscovered”. It’s as though we are all nascent flowers, and our inner beauty is gradually exposed as we open and lean toward the light.
We all can agree that children are so adept at picking up a new language or adapting to the latest technology. When I contrast the way I interact with my environment and the way a young child does, I quickly realize that I lack the wonder, the joy, and the humor that children operate from. I can see how life has “hardened” me and how cynicism, rather than wonder, has become my default mentality. I just read the other day that babies are born with around 10,000 taste buds, far more than adults. Unlike adults', babies' taste buds are not just on the tongue, but also on the sides, back, and roof of the mouth. Eventually these extra taste buds numb and disappear. To me, that’s a perfect analogy of what I feel in so many facets of my life. I need to remind myself to slow down and be present so that I can intently hear what you have to say, feel joyous in my skin, taste and smell all that is beautiful, and most importantly, look at the world with wonder as through a child’s eyes.
Let me give the last word to Shakespeare when in Julius Caesar, Cassius contends that it is we humans, not the stars, who control our destiny.
"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings."